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December 17, 2008

Indonesia: World trade talks should resume

Indonesia's trade minister on Tuesday urged a resumption of talks to forge a new global trade pact, describing it as a task of increasing importance with the world's economy in crisis, reported AFP.

"We remain very committed to completing the Doha negotiations as soon as possible," Mari Pangestu told AFP, making a "strong call" for talks to resume early next year.

Pangestu said completing negotiations would ensure confidence "in an open and rules-based trading system which is going to be very important as part of the overall business climate that we must have to ensure recovery out of this recession."

The minister, whose country is part of a strategic grouping of 33 developing states involved in the so-called Doha talks, spoke to AFP on the sidelines of a regional economic ministers' meeting here.

Pangestu added her voice to that of world leaders who hoped an agreement by the year's end could boost the ailing global economy and prevent protectionism from taking hold.

The head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Pascal Lamy, last Friday scrapped plans to hold a ministerial meeting, citing the "unacceptably high" risk of failure and dashing hopes that the long-delayed global trade pact could be clinched this month.

Lamy had said the worsening economic crisis provided greater impetus for a deal.

He spent weeks trying to organise a meeting to bring the seven-year-long Doha Round of trade liberalisation talks to an end, but admitted there were still too many gaps to bridge. A crunch summit in July had collapsed amid disagreement between the United States and India over import tariff measures.

Negotiators have in the past weeks made a renewed push to conclude the Doha Round, in an attempt to make good a pledge by the Group of 20 industrialised and major developing nations in November to find a deal.

The so-called Doha talks, which started at the end of 2001 in the Qatari capital, aim to boost international commerce by removing trade barriers and subsidies.

A deal has so far proved elusive as certain countries have disagreed over issues including the terms for opening up their markets or reducing financial support to farmers.

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